Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2010: The Year of the Woman in Transport
(Now, how do we get there and where do we start?)

In this piece the editor of World Streets goes out on a limb and proposes not only that the year 2010 should be formally nominated as "The Year of the Woman in Transportation" but also that something resembling gender parity be established at least as high profile examples in as many places as possible – DURING THE YEAR. (But there is plenty of room for you to express yourself on this too. Vote, comment, make your voice heard )

Admit it. We have made a right mess of our transportation arrangements.

So we should do better, right?

But for us to do better, we cannot content ourselves with more of the same. More roads, higher speeds, heavier vehicles, more time in transit, more fossil fuel burned, more accidents and lives lost, ever more people excluded from fair transportation, and ever longer distances to be traveled, stretching our communities far beyond the breaking point. This old mobility formula is at the root cause of the problems we all face today. Or at least most of us.

Hmm. So it looks like it's time for a leadership change.

Let's take a quick step back first to get a bit of perspective. What were the outstanding characteristics of the leadership that got us into this mess in the first place?

Well, for one, they were almost all male -- and political, and pretty well educated, often with engineering, financial and technical skills, and middle class. And yes, just about all drivers and car owners. (That is right, isn't it?)

And even when there were females in place here and there at the level of the policy and investment decisions, the basic behavioral environment, the template, the culture of the process, was and is to this day in almost all corners of the world essentially masculine.

So these good people engineered the system that would serve them best.

This was not a conspiracy as such, far from it, but just a banal result of how the cards got shuffled at the top of the deck.

Fair enough, eh? Or perhaps not?

Now if this is true – and I count on you to contradict me if it is not – it gives us a foundation for moving ahead and doing something about it.

What happens if we decide to use the power of the law to increase the number of women in leadership and decision positions by a very significant amount? And that in a very short period of time?

We have placed a one-minute poll on this just to your left, and invite you to take that minute to register your view on this we think important point. And since you will surely have more to say than just to check one box, we invite you to scroll down to the end of this piece and click the Comment button and let us hear what you have to share with us on this important subject.
But for this to happen there has to be a structured, broadly supported, insistent and effective program to create a consensus around this issue.

And it will help to have, and to know about successful models in which this has at least in part been achieved in different places around the world. (Because there are counties and cities that are starting to do much better. So as part of this worldwide collaborative project let us band together and make their examples more broadly known,)

To this end, World Streets proposes that next year, the year 2010, should be named as the "Year of the Woman in Transport"

And as a step in this direction, we propose to open up the pages of World Streets over the entire month of September to articles and comments on this proposal, with a view to making it our major theme for 2010. If, that is, we can agree that this is something worth pursuing.

In the coming weeks we intend to post a number of articles on various aspects
this, and we invite you to be a part of the solution. Let us hear from, both by way of your poll vote and comment here, and with your ideas for articles, authors, themes and actions to make this a real collaborative accomplishment of our growing group of believers in sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable and just lives.

PS. Let's dedicate this to Mrs. Jacobs.

# # #

Eric Britton is editor of World Streets and has for many years been a vigorous supporter of planning and policy for and by women in a sector that has for far too long been male dominated and as a result shaped by the values of not only males, but males of a certain social, economic and behavioral culture. Time for a change, he says.

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  1. Interesting proposal. I believe this could be applied to every aspect of society.

  2. Hi, Eric-
    Transportation has an image problem among women. It needs a PR campaign. I've been involved in the Cycle Chic movement for more than a year now. It is one of the single most effective ways to convince women to try cycling long enough to feel comfortable doing it: make riding a bicycle fashionable. Copenhagen, where everyone bikes, launched the movement. My parisienne girlfriends are slowly becoming comfortable biking due to the pervasiveness and ease of the Velib' program. Here in San Francisco, Cycle Chic has certainly become trendy -- I see women biking in dresses all the time now whereas before it was mostly skater punks (boys) on fixies.

    Do you (and members of the lists) have other ideas for promoting cycling among women as a viable form of transportation? How can we make the Cycle Chic movement more effective?

    (I've been a utilitarian cyclist since the early '90s but now I dress up to ride my bike across town. The movement worked on me in reverse.)

    Thanks for all you do!

  3. while full gender parity is a laudable aim, I think it will take a while to get there - we need to get more women interested in joining the transport sector, and I've made a few abortive attempts to look at the issue, but it seems there is a general lack of interest from women in the sector (unless I am wrong, and I hope to God that I am...)

  4. Yes, count me in! This is far more than just an interesting proposal! I believe this can and should be exactly as you propose... "2010: The Year of the Woman in Transport." Bravo!


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